I hope you’re having a wonderful summer as we begin August and I wanted to update you on some of my recent activities in Congress.
Last month, I questioned former Special Counsel Robert Mueller on his investigation and report as he testified before the House Intelligence Committee. While many disputes remain around his work, one point which must not be disputed is that major security questions remain around our election systems and other areas vulnerable to foreign interference. It is imperative that we come together as a country, regardless of party and other disagreements, to address those issues and that’s why I’m fighting for bipartisan measures to strengthen our election security.
As Chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, I’m also leading an investigation into the country’s largest e-cigarette company. The vaping giant JUUL has expanded to control more than 75 percent of the market while drawing attention for its youth-oriented advertising strategy. We have already seen e-cigarette use among teenagers explode by 78 percent from 2017 to 2018. Last year alone, more than 1 in 5 teenagers reported using e-cigarettes.
We heard testimony from doctors, advocates, families, and Senator Dick Durbin, who’s been Congress’ leading anti-smoking advocate throughout his career. We learned about the lengths JUUL went in marketing its product to young people, including orchestrating massive social media campaigns of paid “influencers” intended to make the product more appealing to young people. JUUL even copied the packaging of Marlboro, the leading cigarette among young people, so closely that Altria, Marlboro’s parent company, filed a lawsuit. In questioning James Monsees, one of JUUL’s co-founders, we confirmed that the lawsuit was settled for $0 and within 3 years, Altria, one of the world’s largest tobacco companies, purchased a 35% ownership stake in JUUL.
In a hearing on the company JUUL’s role in the youth vaping and nicotine addiction crisis, Congressman Krishnamoorthi highlights the similarity between JUUL’s packaging and that of Marlboro, the leading cigarette brand among young smokers.
Some of the most disturbing and most important testimony we heard was on JUUL’s youth outreach programs through which the company offered school grants of between $10,000 and $134,000 in exchange for the opportunity to operate afterschool and summer camp “wellness programs” for their students and to collect data from them. One of our witnesses, Caleb Mintz, a 17-year old student at one of the six schools which participated in the program, testified under oath that he and his classmates were told by JUUL representatives that the e-cigarettes were “totally safe” despite documented risks of dangerous side-effects.
These hearings only mark the beginning of my subcommittee’s investigation into the teen vaping epidemic, but I’m committed to combatting this dangerous new wave of addiction and to holding anyone who knowingly endangered children accountable.
Congressman Krishnamoorthi meeting with anti-youth smoking and vaping advocates after chairing an Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee hearing on the vaping company JUUL.
In the health care sphere, I’m also working to combat the high price of prescription drugs through increased competition. That's why I recently introduced the Price Relief, Innovation, and Competition for Essential Drugs (PRICED) Act to do exactly that.
This legislation would specifically target prescription drugs classified as biologics. A decade ago, these drugs were just emerging, but now they’ve become commonplace as treatments for diseases including cancer and arthritis. As they’ve become more prevalent, the costs for companies trying to develop them have declined to roughly the same level as for other drugs but the sale price to consumers has only gone up. According to a study by the RAND Corporation, biologics are primarily responsible for the 70 percent growth of drug spending in recent years, and they are projected to continue to be the fastest-growing category, in large part because of their special protections against competing generic products entering the market.
When most drugs are invented, the companies that produce them can receive a 5-year exclusivity period, preventing generic competitors from joining the market to compete with them during this time. In contrast, biologics have a 12-year exclusivity period despite being no more expensive to produce than other prescription drugs. The PRICED Act will shorten the exclusivity period for biologics to 5 years, leveling the playing field by allowing generic competitors to enter the market faster which will increase competition, and lower prices for consumers and taxpayers alike.
Lastly, the House unanimously passed my bill to rename the Elgin post office after Corporal Alex Martinez, an Elgin native and the only individual from the city to lose their life in combat since the terror attack on September 11, 2001. I’m glad my colleagues from across the political spectrum have embraced this legislation to honor Corporal Alex Martinez, his loved ones, and the millions of servicemembers who defend our country, and I’ll continue to do all I can to ensure this legislation passes the Senate and is signed into law by the President.
As always, thank you to everyone who has contacted my office to share your concerns or ask for assistance. Please continue to reach out to my staff and me with your questions, thoughts, and concerns.